We held no weapons in our hands. We followed no moral cause. We had the ethics of a thief among thieves. In this rock-bottom hole of our lives, we had one saving grace: we three were connected by our loyalty to each other.
Perhaps that meant something.
Never Know Why by The Muggs
THE FUCKNO WARS
We sat on the tailgate of the tiny pickup truck, each with a bottle of red wine in hand. We could just about see each other’s face under the starlight. I felt the hot puttering of the tail pipe near my pant leg. It had been a bitch to get it started, pushing it down the road over and over again.
Lion Man said, “We should make a toast. Something that means something.”
No One said, “I got something my dad used to say each and every time he cracked open a bottle from his wine cellar…”
We other two waited for him to say it. And waited. Then I said, “OK, what did he say?”
No One said, “Lang may your lum reek.”
Lion Man said, “Long may my lump reek? You don’t smell like a flower either, dude.”
No One said, “It’s Scottish Gaelic for ‘Long may your chimney smoke.’” His lower lip quivered. He was pissed off.
I punched the Lion Man in the arm. I said, “Raise your bottle up and let’s toast to our fucking chimneys. Long may they smoke.”
Lion Man laughed and said, “I’m gonna get my chimney smoked by a bitch come morning, mutha fuckas.”
Daylight was ten thousand miles away while the Earth spins, a thousand miles per hour. We had some work to do in the night. We would soon travel from one scene of devastation to another. The stately ranch behind us had been burned to the ground, and the mansion ahead had gotten an enema. We sat and chugged our wine, laughing and joking and fucking with each other, trying to get No One riled up again. We were getting our courage up for the task we faced.
In a bit, I slid off the tailgate from between the other two and flung my empty bottle off into the fig tree orchard across the road. A girl I once knew would have gotten angry at me for littering like that, but she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere anymore. I pushed her away from my mind. Now she was nowhere.
“All right boys,” I said, “Let’s get this shit started.” I climbed in behind the steering wheel.
Lion Man hopped down and threw his bottle off into the dark. “Shotgun!”
No One hopped off the tailgate and the truck rose up. He said, “What? You got a sh—“
Lion Man cut him off, “Nope. I got the door. You be sitting bitch.” He held the door open like a gentleman does for a lady.
No One frowned and got in, and the truck groaned and sank down a couple of inches. He slid across the seat. He sighed and pulled his meaty thigh up over the stick shift. His wine bottle clinked against it. He looked over at me and said, “Don’t grab the wrong stick. I ain’t got no underwear on.”
I chuckled. “Don’t get your hopes up, man. Just watch out if we hit a bump. You might land on a new addiction for you.”
Joey squeezed in and tried to close the door. “Hey! You ladies better exhale or something, or find me some rope to tie this door. Scootch over big boy.”
No One pulled his thighs together and pressed me against my own door. Lion Man got the door closed, and then everyone relaxed. He said, “Ooof! You fuckers are crushing me here!”
I said, “Hold on, we only have a few miles to go. You two sure make a purty couple.”
We headed off to the intersection a mile away with the headlamps off, and over the mountain tops to the left, a red slit glinted and sneered at us. The moon looked like she was hung over, pissed off at “who be making all of this fucking noise out here?”
Soon she would be a full red moon, blood red.
Soon she would be a full red moon, blood red.
I could see the road ahead in the starlight, and it was a straight shot. Across from the mountains, on the right side of the road, the far off crown of night light pollution from the ugly king of the desert rose above the fig trees as we drove forth.
If we just kept driving straight for a good twenty miles, we could sneak past the huge city. We could avoid its ugliness and find ourselves in a nice town that had turned its back on its foul tempered neighbor. We could find good honest work in the fields, or at a burger joint, or doing yard work for the wealthy residents that filled that little city’s pockets with hope.
We would never choose the easy way out. Ever.
At the rusty stop sign I flicked the headlamps on. I turned right, onto the tar, and we headed south. The mansion awaited our visit, in a few miles. My stomach quivered. I grabbed No One’s bottle from him and took a long haul from it. His bottle was still quite full. Dude didn’t have much of a taste for wine I supposed. I took another long haul and handed it back to him, but the Lion Man grabbed it.
He polished it off and handed it back to the big guy. No One put it up to his mouth and tilted back a bit, and then wiped his mouth and forced a burp.
Lion Man squeezed forward and turned to look the big guy in the face. He said, “Who you kidding?”
No One shrugged, and when he did, his arm rose my arm up and we swung left. When that happened, he and Lion Man smacked their foreheads together and then we were heading for the ditch. I swung us back to the tar and then the big guy fell against me.
“Jeebus in a chicken basket! Sit the fuck still!” I gripped the wheel and locked my elbows.
“Mr. Will, I’m sorry.” He looked like he was going to cry.
Lion Man rubbed his face. “Dude, you gave me a fucking concussion with your big ole melon head!”
We were like the fucking Three Stooges, for chrissakes. The crown of lights over the orange tree orchards to the left grew brighter. My stomach didn’t quiver anymore. Nothing like a good shot of freshly brewed adrenaline from a near crash to wake you the fuck up.
We hit another intersection, and I turned left. We drove in silence. No one wanted to play any music on the radio, I guess. I think it might have been something else. Even though the windows were open and the desert air cooled us, the atmosphere in the truck’s cab was thick with trepidation. And then we were at the next intersection. I swung us right. Now we were on the route that led directly down to the mansion. Along this path, we passed shiny pieces of metal on the sides of the road here and there. It looked like a swath of destruction through a car parts store or something.
As we neared the mansion, something caught my eye on the sun bleached tar. There was a long pair of black marks on the road, like voids under the light of the headlamps. I slowed to a stop and backed up so I could view them from the headlamps. I opened the door and got out. The other two exhaled in relief. No One leaned away from the Lion Man, but he was busy getting out.
He said, “Piss stop!” He took a few steps and just stood there and relieved himself.
I walked over to those odd marks on the tar. I was drawn to them. I could not say why. I knelt and touched the nearest one. They were two long lines, a vehicle’s width apart. My fingers went down deep into the black mark. Something had dug out a pair of trenches in the old crumbly tar. In the dark shadow of their long trench, I swear I could feel long claw marks.
I stood up and looked around to see where the asphalt had gone. There were chunks of it scattered all about the sides of the road. A lone mailbox stood there like a sentry, with a big dent in its head. The door to it hung down like the tongue of a dog.
It had been smashed by a chunk of the torn out tar.
A vehicle with great power had done this.
I felt my stomach quiver again. There were forces at work about which I had no clue. But the hairs on the back of my neck stood right the fuck up. My instinct told me to hop back in the truck, turn it around, and then head for the hills. Head for the mountains. Head for the next state. Don’t look back.
Of course, you know, we would never take the easy way out.
I wiped my hand on my jeans, brushing off the remnants of a wounded desert road, and I headed back to the little pickup truck. I climbed in, pushed No One over, and closed the door.
The little Lion Man said, “Fuck that. Bitch, time for you to ride in the back.”
The wine was fully with him now. No One slid over and out, saying nothing. The truck’s suspension rose up. Lion Man climbed in and slammed the door shut.
He said to me, “Drive! Quick before he gets in back!” He laughed at his own joke.
Then the truck’s springs creaked and lowered as the big guy climbed in the back. I put her in gear, and we crept down the country lane. As we neared the entrance of the long driveway to the mansion, we saw lights from where it stood off yonder. Of course there would be lights. What had we been thinking? Of course the place would be guarded. There were many expensive things, most of them reparable, other ones destroyed, but all owned by very wealthy folks.
As we passed the entrance, I looked down the long lane and saw a car parked across its way. Most likely there was someone sitting inside it smoking a cigarette with the radio on. There was no way I would stop now, let alone driving down there to say hi to him. Who knew if he’d recognize any of us?
Lion Man must have read my mind, because he said, “Just keep going! Fuck this shit.”
No One knocked on the rear window of the truck cab and pointed back. Then he scrambled up and stuck his head in the driver’s side window. He said, “Mr. Will! You just passed it! It’s back there!”
I turned to him and said, “No. I know it’s back there. We won’t be driving down that lane.”
No One frowned. He sat back down in the truck’s bed.
Lion Man shook his head. He said, “We don’t have any time to come back another night.”
I looked over at him. “Hah?”
He kept shaking his head. “It has to be tonight. We have no choice. When morning comes, we have to face a lot of things. A lot of things. We have a fucking lot of things to explain to folks. One of them is the owner of this stolen truck. I got it from the hospital parking lot.”
Huh. He was right.
“What are you thinking?” I said, but I already knew.
He said, “We gonna park this old crate and leave her running with the lights off. She’s our escape, our only one. I got her filled up with fuel. We gonna go and see what we can find out about those bastards.”
He was right. And that sucked. We would not take the easy way out.
I said, “OK, well. So find us a place to hide her!”
It wouldn’t be wise to pass by that lane again, I just knew. We came upon a power station, and he pointed at it. He said, “Let’s put her in there! It’ll be easy to find.”
He was right, it would be easy to find.
I slowed and turned in, and looked around. A single streetlamp shined from a pole near the driveway, but it was dark near the structure. I did a three point turn and backed the truck beside it, in the shadow of the trees. I put my hand to the ignition to turn the engine off out of habit, but there were no keys.
Joey punched my arm. He said, “What the fuck are you doing?”
I grinned. “Just wanted to see if it’s really stolen.” But I almost had shit my pants at my stupidity.
No One hopped out and the truck squeaked a sigh of relief and rose back up a few inches. He came over to the driver’s window and leaned down. He said, “I knew you guys wouldn’t give up.”
I got out and closed the door. I said, “What do you mean?”
No One wiped his eyes and said, “I saw her standing… I mean, I just had an idea that you would pull in here.”
Hah? Dude was blabbering like an idiot. I shrugged. “We got some sneaking to do. How good are you at sneaking around, quietly?”
He smiled. He said, “I do it all the time. I sneak all kinds of things. I can steal good too.”
I chuckled. “We won’t be stealing. Just don’t make any noise. Try to remember where this truck is parked. Any one of us may have to drive it, but we won’t be leaving anyone else behind. You got that?”
Lion Man came around to our side and said, “Yeah, boy, don’t be running off without us. Weeee-ill’s right. Leave no man behind.”
No One said to us, “Mr. Will and Joseph, I promise to you both that I won’t leave anyone behind.”
That being said, we went into the shadow behind the power station and I looked up. The transmission lines on the huge metal tower stretched off for miles towards the crown of light of the megalopolis of Fuckno.
These thick transmission lines also ran in the opposite direction, to some off-skirt communities on this side of Fuckno. Little towns and cities always sprouted up around huge cities. Or perhaps they existed all the while and had become encroached upon by the urban sprawl of one of their neighbors. It would be the one in betwixt them all, in the middle, that got the most trade from them all, and so it grew and grew.
Now, barbed wire had taken over the free reign of cattle drives and such in the early days of the wild west, but thankfully, no one used it much anymore except for secure locations like businesses at risk of pilfering from the inside and burglary from the out. Instead of barbed wire, now there were electrical fences for cattle, or else homesteaders had built simple but strong wooden fences.
I hoped for the latter, obviously.
We crept along behind the power station, under the light of the stars. In the desert at night, the stars touch the ground on the horizon. It is a big sky. We could make out the black shape of the mountain range, beyond the direction of the mansion. The sliver of the red moon would be our guide as we went in that direction, but what would guide us back to the little truck? I turned back and saw the streetlight near the entrance to the power station. I memorized how it looked. It is always a good idea to do such a thing. Your environment looks different coming back from the other direction. Always turn back and take a mental snapshot. It may help you.
We came upon the first fence when I smacked into it and fell over it. I lied in the dirt, rubbing my thighs. I had two charley horses now. Lion Man began to laugh but he shut up. No One reached down and pulled me up, even though I wasn’t yet done squirming about in silent pain.
He said, “You OK, Mr. Will?”
I said, “Yeah, thanks. But keep your voice down.” I grimaced and rubbed my thighs, and then we went on. I said, “Can you see the lights over there? We have to head down further this way, so we can get to the rear of that place.”
The other two followed me as I hobbled along, and then No One said, “Mr. Will, how about a piggy back ride?”
I said, “No, dude. Not now. Besides, I don’t think I can lift you up, much less carry you.”
No One put his thick hand on my shoulder and said, “I can carry you on my back, just tell me where to go, and I’ll go there.”
Great. I had a strong horse now.
We soon found ourselves at the rear fence when No One smashed through it and we both fell. He rubbed his thighs, and began to cry. It hurt, I guess.
I wiped the clumps of earth from my face and spit out dirt. I looked over to the lights that indicated the mansion.
They were pretty close to us. We had traversed the long back yard of someone’s home at a diagonal direction and made good time. But the big guy was crying now. Damn.
Then he shut the fuck up. He looked over to another area and pointed. He said, “She’s standing over there. I can see her. We should go that way.”
Hah? I looked over at the Lion Man, and he shrugged. But No One was heading off, paying no mind to us anymore. So we followed him. Lion Man tugged on my shirt and he whispered, “Did he take a bump to the noggin on a rock or something?”
I whispered back, “I dunno. But let’s see where he’s headed. Can’t really stop him, ya know?"
We reached the edge of the mansion’s rear spread and No One kept wiping his eyes. He said, “She ain’t here no more!” Then he began to cry again. He looked around, and then he said, “Oh, she’s over there now.”
He climbed over the wire fence and sparks sizzled under his thick hands. He paid it no mind. I pulled Lion Man close up to me and said, “What the fuck is going on here?”
He said, “I think he done lost his mind. He’s following a phantom or someshit.”
I thought about that. Maybe he was seeing a ghost. He saw her when he was crying. What the fuck? Who was she? Why was he following her? Well, we had no choice but to follow him. There was only one thing. I don’t know about you, but I’m not especially fond of getting zapped by electricity. Dude had just climbed over one and got zapped, but he was probably out his mind now; hopefully it was temporary.
Lion man took his leather jacket off and draped it over the wire. He said, “After you.” He indicated his leather. Huh. Always mind your leather, I guess. It could help you. So I went over the fence, and beneath his jacket, I could feel a tickle of sorts, all crackling there and then I smelled his leather getting sizzled. It was not an unpleasant scent.
He came over and grabbed his jacket off the fence and shook it out. He put it on. Then he said, “Now where did that big bastard go?”
We looked about, and we could not see him. I saw that we had crossed over into the back spread of the mansion behind a horse stable. There were horses inside, I could see by the weak light of a filament bulb. I said, “Joseph, we can’t spook these animals, or they’ll wake up the whole neighborhood.”
He nodded and pulled me along to the side, away, and then he whispered, “I see him. He’s talking to someone! Fucking asshole! He’s given us away! Let’s get the fuck out of here!”
He dragged me back to the direction from which we had come, but I grabbed his arm and yanked him back to a standstill. I said in his ear, “Wait. I have a feeling about this.”
We stood and watched, and then No One turned around, and he looked back at us. How the hell could he see us? He swung his arm at us in a beckoning manner. Well, there you go. I guess we were in. So we crept up to him, careful not to spook the horses in the stable.
No One said, “She says the Purple Robes are inside, and they know we are close, but they don’t know where we are exactly. So what do we do now?”
Lion Man grabbed my arm. He said, I don’t know what the fuck is going on here. I don’t like it one bit. It’s time to fucking bail, Weeeee-ill.”
I shrugged him off of me. I turned back to No One and said, “Who said this to you?”
The big guy shrugged and pointed right in front of him. “She did.”
Yeah, maybe it was time to bail?
God Help You.
God Help Us All.